Migrant ordeal comes to an end: Stranded migrants finally land in Malta

Migrants stand on the deck of the migrant search and rescue ship Sea Watch 3

They say warrants were issued for 14 suspects in Sicily and one in northern Italy, with several arrests made.

Earlier this week, Sea-Watch said some of those aboard were distraught about the stalemate, which left the boat at the mercy of rough seas for many days.

Thirty-two migrants were rescued on December 22 and 17 more on December 29 from unseaworthy smugglers' boats.

The migrants have been stranded off the coast of Malta on two boats since late a year ago, with some suffering from dehydration and seasickness. He said that Germany still aims to reach "a long-term and sustainable mechanism".

Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan said five unaccompanied child migrants would be taken in from Malta as a gesture of solidarity and humanitarian assistance.

Of the remaining 118 migrants, Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat revealed that 44 Bangladeshi nationals will be returned to their own country, meaning 74 will remain in Malta.

"I am and remain absolutely contrary to new arrivals in Italy", he said.

Following Wednesday's deal, Italy's far-right Interior Minister Matteo Salvini accused the European Commission of "facilitating the work of smugglers and NGOs".

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The call has been shared by Italy's protestant community, with evangelicals offering to take in some of the migrants. "If human values and solidarity are not upheld, then it is not Europe", said European Union migration commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos.

Mr Muscat welcomed the show of "solidarity and understanding" shown by the European Union nations, and said the transfer of migrants to the eight other countries would begin as soon as possible. "The rescue boats will then be told to leave Maltese waters", Muscat told reporters.

This was followed on 29 December with another 17 asylum seekers rescued by the "Sea-Eye" humanitarian ship.

He again defended his decision to refuse to let the ships dock, although Malta had allowed them to enter its waters for supplies and to shelter from bad weather.

The migrants arrived in Malta on Wednesday afternoon after being transferred from the Sea-Watch 3 and Dutch-flagged Albrecht Penck ships to Maltese coastguard vessels.

He said that of the total of 298 migrants, 176 would be sent to Germany, France, Portugal, Ireland, Romania, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Italy.

Police in Spain said Wednesday they broke up a gang that allegedly smuggled people and drugs on boats from Morocco and charged migrants up to 2,000 euros ($2,300) a trip.

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